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Elevator Speeches No More

By: John Andersen | Campus President

March 2, 2017

I recently read a post by Sam Horn that resonated with me. It was about the ineffectiveness of the traditional elevator speech.

Almost anyone providing career advice will, in some form, indicate that you must be able to clearly and quickly communicate what you do. Those looking for their first job or a new job must be prepared to face this question: “If you find yourself in an elevator standing next to your desired boss to be, what will you say? You have a captive audience, so take advantage of it!” 

While the question addresses a realistic need, many people in this scenario have come to lean solely on the tactic of rattling off 20 to 30 seconds of memorized information that may or may not capture the interest of the recipient.

In the past, I too have promoted this approach. At every
new student orientation, I ask the incoming students whether people have been asking them about what college they have chosen and what they plan to study. Most, if not all, nod their heads in affirmation. I then inquire if the response they get sounds like one of these:

  • “The Art Institute of where?”

  • “There is a school for that?”

  • “What are you going do with that?”


Their eyes light up as they recall recent similar conversations. At this point, I encourage these students to be proud of their decision and to be prepared to talk about what they do now and what they want to do in the future. Insert elevator speech about elevator speeches here.

This process will change at my next orientation. You see, elevator speeches are ineffective because they are speeches, not conversations – or as Sam Horn puts it, monologues instead of dialogues. At my next orientation, I’ll encourage students to find an example, a point of connection to start from, when talking about their
creative arts career interests.

I still believe that I need to be prepared to clearly communicate what I do for a career to those who ask, just like my students need to be able to clearly communicate their career aspirations. Yet, maybe we do not need to be so fast and prescribed. Dialogues create connections that otherwise may never be formed. Why not set ourselves up to connect?

That’s why my advice to you is, instead of planning your elevator speech, first take the time to read Sam Horn’s post,
Why to NEVER Give an Elevator Speech & What to Say Instead.

By: John Andersen | Campus President

March 2, 2017